, Volume 97, Issue 5, pp 495–503 | Cite as

The frontal gland in workers of Neotropical soldierless termites

  • Jan Šobotník
  • David Sillam-Dussès
  • František Weyda
  • Alain Dejean
  • Yves Roisin
  • Robert HanusEmail author
  • Thomas Bourguignon
Original Paper


The presence of the frontal gland is well established in termite soldiers of Rhinotermitidae, Serritermitidae, and Termitidae. It is one of their main defensive adaptations or even an exclusive weapon. The gland was also occasionally reported in alate imagoes, but never in the worker caste. Here, we report the first observation of a frontal gland in workers of several Neotropical and one African species of Apicotermitinae. The ultrastructure of Aparatermes cingulatus and Anoplotermes nr. subterraneus is described in detail. In these two species, the gland is well-developed, functional and consists of class 1 secretory cells. The presence of envelope cells, wrapping the gland, is an unusual feature, as well as the presence of several zonulae adherens, connecting neighbouring glandular cells. The frontal gland of workers is homologous to this organ in soldiers and imagoes, as evidenced by the same position in the head and its connection to the same muscle. However, the defensive role of the frontal gland in workers remains to be confirmed.


Frontal gland Workers Soldierless termites Apicotermitinae Anoplotermes Aparatermes 



The authors are grateful to Andrea Dejean for the revision of the English manuscript, to Julien Cillis and Yves Laurent for SEM and optical microscopy assistance, respectively. We warmly thank Kumar Krishna from the American Museum of Natural History, who kindly gave us access to the type material of all of the Neotropical Apicotermitinae. This research was funded by the Grant Agency of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic (project no. IAA600550614), by the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague (project No. Z4 055 0506), by the National Fund for Scientific Research (F.R.S.–FNRS, Belgium) through several travelling grants and a predoctoral fellowship to TB, and by the Programme Amazonie II of the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (project 2ID).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jan Šobotník
    • 1
  • David Sillam-Dussès
    • 1
  • František Weyda
    • 2
  • Alain Dejean
    • 3
  • Yves Roisin
    • 4
  • Robert Hanus
    • 1
    Email author
  • Thomas Bourguignon
    • 4
  1. 1.Research Team of Infochemicals, Institute of Organic Chemistry and BiochemistryCzech Academy of SciencesPraha 6Czech Republic
  2. 2.Department of Physiology, Institute of EntomologyBiology Centre, Czech Academy of SciencesČeské BudějoviceCzech Republic
  3. 3.CNRS, Écologie des Forêts de GuyaneUMR-CNRS 8172Kourou cedexFrance
  4. 4.Evolutionary Biology and Ecology, CP 160/12Université Libre de BruxellesBrusselsBelgium

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